The Impossible Question
Part 1, Public Talks Saanen 1970
Impossible Question Part I Chapter 6 6th Public Talk Saanen 28th July 1970 'The Mechanical Activity of Thought'
We were talking of the importance of thought and yet of its unimportance; of how thought has a great deal of action and within its own field only limited freedom. We spoke of a state of mind that is totally unconditioned. This morning we can go into this question of conditioning; not only the superficial, cultural conditioning, but also why conditioning takes place. We can enquire about the quality of mind that is not conditioned, that has gone beyond conditioning. We have to go into this matter very deeply to find out what love is. And in understanding what love is, perhaps we shall be able to comprehend the full significance of death.
So, first we will find out whether the mind can be totally and completely free of conditioning. It is fairly obvious how we are superficially conditioned by the culture, the society, the propaganda around us, and also by nationality, by a particular religion, by education and through environmental influences. I think it is fairly clear and fairly simple to see how most human beings, of whatever country or race, are conditioned by the particular culture or religion to which they belong. They are moulded, held within a particular pattern. One can fairly easily put aside such conditioning.
Then there is the deeper conditioning, such as an aggressive attitude towards life. Aggression implies a sense of dominance, of seeking power, possessions, prestige. One has to go very deeply to be completely free of that, because it is very subtle, taking many different forms. One may think one is not aggres- sive, but when one has an ideal, an opinion, an evaluation, verbal and non-verbal, there is a sense of assertiveness which gradually becomes aggressive and violent. One can see this in oneself. Behind the very word `aggression' though you may say it very gently - there is a kick, there is a furtive, dominant, compulsive action which becomes cruel and violent. That aggressive conditioning one has to discover, whether one has derived it from the animal, or has become aggressive in one's own self-assertive pleasure. Is one aggressive in the total sense of that word, which means `stepping forward'?
Another form of conditioning is that of comparison. One compares oneself with what one thinks is noble or heroic, with whit one would like to be, as opposed to what one is. The comparative pursuit is a form of conditioning; again, it is extraordinarily subtle. I compare myself with somebody who is a little more intelligent or more beautiful physically. Secretly or openly, there is a constant soliloquy, talking to oneself in terms of comparison. Observe this in yourself. Where there is comparison there is a form of aggression in the feeling of achievement; or, when you cannot achieve, there is a sense of frustration and a feeling of inferiority. From childhood we are educated to compare. Our educational system is based on comparison, on the giving of marks, on examinations. In comparing yourself with somebody who is cleverer, there is envy, jealousy, and all the conflict that ensues. Comparison implies measurement; I am measuring myself against something I think is better or nobler.
One asks: `Can the mind ever be free of this social and cultural conditioning, of the mind measuring and comparing, the conditioning of fear and pleasure, of reward and punishment?' The whole of our moral and religious structures are based on this. Why is it that we are conditioned? We see the outward influences which are conditioning us and the inward voluntary demand to be conditioned. Why do we accept this conditioning? Why has the mind allowed itself to be conditioned? What is the factor behind it all? Why do I, born in a certain country and culture, calling myself a Hindu, with all the superstition and tradition imposed by the family, the society, accept such conditioning? What is the urge that lies behind this? What is the factor that is constantly demanding and acquiescing, yielding to or resisting this conditioning? One can see that one wants to be safe and secure in the community which is following a certain pattern. If one does not follow that pattern one may lose one's job, be without money, not be regarded as a respectable human being. There is a revolt against that, and that revolt forms its own conditioning - which all the young people are going through now. One must find out what is the urge that makes one conform. Unless one discovers it for oneself, one will always be conditioned one way or the other, positively or negatively. From the moment one is born until one dies, the process goes on. One may revolt against it, one may try to escape into another conditioning, withdrawing into a monastery as do the people who devote their life to contemplation, to philosophy, but it is the same movement right through. What is the machinery that is in constant movement, adjusting itself to various forms of conditioning?
Thought is everlastingly conditioned, because it is the response of the past as memory. Thought is always mechanical; it falls very easily into a pattern, into a groove, and then you consider you are being tremendously active, whether you are confined to the Communist groove, the Catholic groove, or whatever it is. It is the easiest, the most mechanical thing to do - and we think we are living! So although thought has a certain limited freedom in its field, everything it does is mechanical. After all, to go to the moon is quite mechanical, it is the outcome of the accumulated knowledge of centuries. The pursuit of technical thinking takes you to the moon, or under the sea and so on. The mind wants to follow a groove, wants to be mechanical and that way there is safety, security, there is no disturbance. To live mechanically is not only encouraged by society, but also by each one of us, because that is the easiest way to live.
So thought being a mechanical, repetitive pursuit, accepts any form of conditioning which enables it to continue in its mechanical activity. A philosopher invents a new theory, an economist a new system, and we accept that groove and follow it. Our society, our culture, our religious prompting, everything seems to function mechanically; yet in that there is a certain sense of stimulation. When you go to Mass, there is a certain excitement, emotion, and that becomes the pattern. I do not know if this is something you have ever tried - do it once and you will see the fun of it: take a piece of stick or a stone, any odd piece with a little shape to it, put it on the mantlepiece and put a flower beside it every morning. Within a month you will see that it has become a habit, as a religious symbol, and you have begun to identify yourself with that.
Thought is the response of the past. If one has been taught engineering as a profession, one adds to and adjusts that knowledge, but one is set in that line; similarly if you are a doctor and so on. Thought is somewhat free within a certain field, but it is still within the limits of mechanical functioning. Do you see that, not only verbally and intellectually, but actually? Are you as aware of it as when you hear that train? Sound of passing train.)
Can the mind free itself from the habits it has cultivated, from certain opinions, judgments, attitudes and values? Which means, can the mind be free of thought? If this is not completely understood, then the next thing which I am going to talk, about will have no meaning. The understanding of this leads to the next question, which is inevitable, if you go into it. If thought is mechanical, if it inevitably conforms to the conditioning of the mind, then what is love? Is love the product of thought? Is love nurtured, cultivated by thought, dependent on thought?
What is love? - bearing in mind that the description is not the described, the word is not the thing. Can the mind be free of the mechanical activity of thought so as to find out what love is? For most of us love is associated, or equated, with sex. That is a form of conditioning. When you are enquiring into this really very complex, intricate and extraordinarily beautiful thing, you must find out how that word `sex' has conditioned the mind.
We say we will not kill - we will not go to Vietnam or some other place to kill, but we do not mind killing animals. If you yourself had to kill the animal which you eat, and saw the ugliness of it, would you eat that animal? I doubt it very much. But you do not mind the butcher killing it for you to eat; in that there is a great deal of hypocrisy.
So one asks not only what love is, but also what is compassion. In the Christian culture the animals have no soul, they are put on earth by God for you to eat; that is the Christian conditioning. In certain parts of India to kill is wrong, whether to kill a fly, an animal or anything else. So they do not kill the least thing, they go to the extreme of exaggeration; again, that is their conditioning. And there are people who support antivivisection, yet wear marvellous furs: such hypocrisy goes on!
What does it mean to be compassionate? Not merely verbally, but actually to be compassionate? Is compassion a matter of habit, of thought, a matter of the mechanical repetition of being kind, polite, gentle, tender? Can the mind which is caught in the activity of thought with its conditioning, its mechanical repetition, be compassionate at all? It can talk about it, it can encourage social reform, be kind to the poor heathen and so on; but is that compassion? When thought dictates, when thought is active, can there be any place for compassion? Compassion being action without motive, without self-interest, without any sense of fear, without any sense of pleasure.
So one asks: `Is love pleasure?, - sex is pleasure, of course. We take pleasure in violence, we take pleasure in achievement, in assertion, in aggression. Also we take pleasure in being somebody. And all that is the product of thought, the product of measurement - `I was that' and `I will be this'. Is pleasure, in the sense in which we have been speaking, is that love? How can a mind which is caught in habit, in measurement and comparison, know what love is? One may say, love is this or that but that is all the product of thought.
From that observation arises the question: what is death? Whit does it mean, to die? It must be the most marvellous experience! It must imply something that has completely come to an end. The movement that has been set going the strife, struggle, turmoil, all the despairs and frustrations - all that suddenly comes to in end. The man who is trying to become famous, who is assertive, violent, brutal - that activity is cut off! Have you noticed how anything that continues psychologically becomes mechanical, repetitive. It is only when psychological continuance comes to an end, that there is something totally new - you can see this in yourself. Creation is not the continuation of what is, or what was, but the ending of that.
So psychologically can one die? You understand my question? Can one die to the known, die to what has been - not in order to become something else - which is the ending of and the freedom from the known? After all, that is what death is.
The physical organism will die, naturally; it has been abused, kicked around, frustrated; it has eaten and drunk all kinds of things. You know how you live and you go on that way till it dies. The body, through accident, through old age, through some disease, through the strain of constant emotional battle within and without, becomes twisted, ugly, and it dies. There is self pity in this dying and also pity for oneself when somebody else dies. When somebody dies whom we consider we love, is there not in that sorrow a great deal of care? For you are left alone, you are exposed to yourself, you have nobody to rely on, nobody to give you comfort. Our sorrow is tinged with this self-pity and fear and naturally in this uncertainty one accepts every form of belief.
The whole of Asia believes in reincarnation, in being reborn in another life. When you enquire what it is that is going to be born in the next life, you come up against difficulties. What is it? Yourself? What are you? a lot of words, a lot of opinions, attachments to your possessions, to your furniture, to your conditioning. Is all that, which you call the soul, going to be reborn in the next life? Reincarnation implies that what you are today determines what you will be again in the next life. Therefore behave! - not tomorrow, but today, because what you do today you are going to pay for in the next life. people who believe in reincarnation do not bother about behavior;t all; it is just a matter of belief, which has no value. Incarnate today, afresh not in the next life! Change it now completely, change with great passion, let the mind strip itself of everything, of every conditioning, every knowledge, of everything it thinks is `right' - empty it. Then you will know what dying means; and then you will know what love is. For love is not something of the past, of thought, of culture; it is not pleasure. A mind that has understood the whole movement of thought becomes extraordinarily quiet, absolutely silent. That silence is the beginning of the new.
Questioner: Sir, can love have an object?
Krishnamurti: Who is asking the question? Thought or love? Love is not asking this question. When you love, you love! - you do not ask, `Is there an object, or no object, is it personal or impersonal?'. Oh, you do not know what is means, the beauty of it! Our love, as it is, is such a trial; our relationship with each other is such a conflict. Our love is based on your image of me and my image of you. Look at it very carefully, at the relationship between these two isolated images which say to each other, `We love'. The images are the product of the past, of memories, memories of what you said to me and I said to you; and this relationship between the two images must inevitably be an isolating process. That is what we call relationship. To be related means to be in contact not merely physically which is not possible when there is an image, when there is the self-isolating process of thought, which is the `me', and the`you'. We say: `Has love an object? Or is love divine or profane?, - you follow? Sir, when you love, you are neither giving nor receiving.
Questioner: When one goes behind these words, `beauty' and `love', don't all these divisions disappear?
Krishnamurti: Have you ever sat, not day-dreaming, but very quietly, completely aware? In that awareness there is no verbalization, no choice, no restraint or direction. When the body is completely relaxed, have you noticed the silence that comes into being? That requires a great de;l of investigation, because our minds are never still but endlessly chattering and therefore divided. We divide living into fragments.
Can all this fragmentation come to an end? Knowing that thought is responsible for this fragmentation, we ask: `Can thought be completely silent yet respond when it is necessary, without violence, objectively, sanely, rationally - still let this silence pervade?' That is the only way: to find for oneself this quality of the mind that has no fragments, that is not broken up as the `you' and the `me'.
Questioner: Sir, is the killing of a fly on the same level as the killing of an animal or a human being?
Krishnamurti: Where will you begin the comprehension of killing? You say you will not go to war, kill a human being ( I do not know if you say it or not, it is up to you), but you do not mind taking sides your group and my group. You do not mind believing in something and standing by what you believe. You do not mind killing people with a word, with a gesture - and you will be careful not to kill a fly! Some years ago the speaker was in a country where Buddhism is the accepted religion. If you are a practising Buddhist, it is one of the accepted principles not to kill. Two people came to see the speaker and said, `We have a problem: we do not want to kill. We are ardent Buddhists, we have been brought up not to kill; but we like eggs and we do not want to kill a fertile egg - so what are we to do?' You understand? Unless inwardly you are very clear as to what killing implies - not only with a gun, but by a word, by gesture, by division, by saying `my country', `your country', `my God', `your God" there will inevitably be killing in some form. Do not make a lot of ado about killing a fly and then go and `kill' your neighbour with a word.
The speaker has never eaten meat in his life, does not know what it tastes like even, and yet he puts on leather shoes. One his to live,and although in your heart you do not want to kill anything, hurt anybody - and you really mean it - yet you have to `kill' the vegetable which you eat; for if you do not eat anything you come very quickly to an end. One has to find out for oneself very clearly without any choice, without any prejudice, one has to be highly sensitive and intelligent and then let that intelligence act - not say, `I will not kill flies', yet say something brutal about one's husband.
28th July, 1970.
The Impossible Question
Part 1, Public Talks Saanen 1970
Impossible Question Part I Chapter 6 6th Public Talk Saanen 28th July 1970 'The Mechanical Activity of Thought'
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